A Complicated History of Blacks and War in America

In WWII, several Tuskegee Airmen at Ramitelli, Italy, March 1945. Photo: Library of Congress

Black soldiers have fought, bled, killed and died in America’s wars, even while being subjected to a life as second and even third class citizens in the land in which they lived. It is a complex history rife with contradictions and injustices.

The Revolutionary War

Crispus Attucks, who was a slave when he died in the Boston Massacre in 1770, is widely considered the first casualty of the Revolutionary War. In 1776 Congress passed legislation allowing Black men to enlist in the Armed Services, and as a result, thousands of Black men joined the Army and fought in the war, on both sides. 
The Northern states opened their ranks to freed slaves, however, in the South, it was forbidden to give weapons to slaves as the plantation owners feared retribution from those considered their “property.”

The British offered freedom to any runaway slaves who fought on their side, and many did.

War of 1812

On June 17, 1812 due to simmering tensions, the United States declared war on Britain. Historians say Black men accounted for 20 to 25 percent of the U.S. Naval personnel and performed valiantly. 

The Civil War (1861-1865)

In the American Civil War, Blacks fought on the side of the Union and the Confederacy. Though controversial, Blacks served the Union Army and Navy, ostensibly, with something to fight for since the North was seen as more open to delivering freedom. As for those in the South to be fighters for the Confederacy, they were used primarily for labor. The military officials and slave owners still feared giving them arms which could be used to exact retribution. Though Black soldiers fought bravely, they were still discriminated against in pay, received shoddy equipment and often were not given uniforms.

World War I (1917-1918)

Although the U.S. Armed Forces were still segregated  like the rest of society, Blacks eagerly volunteered to fight bolstering America’s forces by over 350,000 soldiers.   At first Black soldiers were relegated only to support roles, however, the United States, as a part of the Allied Powers saw fit to “allow” Black soldiers into the theater of war.
According to researchers at the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center, The New York National Guard 369th Infantry regiment, nicknamed “The Harlem Hellfighters” were under-appreciated for their brave efforts in WWI. Five hundred members of the regiment received the French “Croix de Guerre,” or “War Cross” and researchers also said “The Harlem Hellfighters” spent more time in continuous combat than any other American unit during that war. 

In WWI Harlem Hellfighters who won the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action. Left to right. Front row: Pvt. Ed Williams, Herbert Taylor, Pvt. Leon Fraitor, Pvt. Ralph Hawkins. Back Row: Sgt. H. D. Prinas, Sgt. Dan Strorms, Pvt. Joe Williams, Pvt. Alfred Hanley, and Cpl. T. W. Taylor. Photo: U.S. Historical Archives

World War II (1941-1945)

The Tuskegee Airmen fought valiantly while protecting the lives of White soldiers, however, upon returning to the military bases, White German soldiers who were enemy combatants and prisoners of war received better treatment than they did. Many Tuskegee Airmen died, ashamed to show their pictures or even talk about their experiences.

Following WWII, these highly trained and skillful pilots returned to the United States and were denied positions as commercial airline pilots because  at that time, companies did not hire Blacks.

It was not until 2007 that President George W. Bush presented the Congressional Gold Medal to the remaining living Tuskegee Airmen  or their widows, as a commendation and public recognition of their service and sacrifice.


Jasiri X - The Most Relevant Artist in Hip-Hop releases 'Strange Fruit (Class of 2013)'

Jasiri X releases his new video dedicated to the memories of Renisha McBride, Jonathan Ferrell and Kendrick Johnson, 'Strange Fruit (Class of 2013)' was produced by Religion and directed by Haute Muslim

Free MP3 Download at http://jasirix.bandcamp.com/ 
Follow Jasiri X at https://twitter.com/jasiri_x

They say Jasiri X you preach too much 
I'm like Black people we asleep too much 
A Black President but he doesn't speak for us 
Another Black body lynched is not unique to us 
Meanwhile Kanye's rocking confederate flags 
Jay Z and Barneys going half on sweaters and bags 
It's not their fault it's ours all we measure is swag 
They getting money get money what's better than cash 
Forever in last riding in Berratas and Jags but don't crash 
If you do and need help don't ask 
Cause all Renisha got was a shotgun blast 
Just for knocking on the door left rotting on the floor 
Half her face gone but no one was locked up like Akon 
Black life comes with no insurance like State Farm 
Race wrong black people better put ya brakes on 
End up on a strange porch ended up as stained corpse 
Different city same sport 
It's not a accident if you hit the witness you aimed for 
Bullets left her face torn 
Victim in a race war make a nigga hate more 
Show up at that same door let that 38 roar 
What will be my fate Lord death by an officer? 
Who I ran to thinking help he would offer up 
10 shot to the chest stretched now they chalking 
Another black man looking fresh in that coffin or 
Beaten to my ribs cracked rolled up in a gym mat 
Blood on my kicks match police say I did that 
No crime the kids black cased closed casket shut 
But take his organs fill em with newspaper and patch em up 
Now tell me if that bullshit is matching up 
I know you just wanna see her twerking then back it up 
But that's what happens when we make our rappers leaders 
And our most intelligent just wanna be on TV speaking 
And they give reality TV shows to preachers 
and we think activism is Facebooking and Tweeting 
12 years a slave we still fighting for freedom 
Just look at the headlines seeing is believing


Excellent interview w/ Khalilah Camacho-Ali from the popular documentary 'The Trials of Muhammad Ali'

I just completed an excellent interview w/ Khalilah Camacho-Ali, former wife of Muhammad Ali, who played a key role in making sure the documentary, The Trials of Muhammad Ali, turned out the way it did. 

She said when she was approached to be a part of it in the very beginning, she told the director, Bill Siegel, that Minister Louis Farrakhan's valuable perspective MUST be included if the truth about the champion fighter was to be told. 

(Photos: Tim Sixx)
If you've watched the documentary, you know she has a lot of personality, and believe me, she was the same way in person. Very colorful, expressive, and direct.  

A delight to interview! You'll love it!

Thanks to Edward Steave & Warren Muhammad for their expert camera work and in advance for what I'm sure will be flawless editing resulting in a valuable finished product.

Even if you are not one who typically likes documentaries, I think you will enjoy this one.
For more details regarding nationwide showings go to: http://kartemquin.com/films/the-trials-of-muhammad-ali/events


Remembering the Tuskegee Airmen and all Black Veterans of foreign wars

Early this morning (at like 3AM) I happened to catch this documentary on PBS dealing w/ members of the Tuskegee Airmen from Western Pennsylvania. I enjoyed it thoroughly and although I actually toured the Tuskegee Airmen Museum and visited Moten Field in Tuskegee, Alabama earlier this year, I gained an even deeper appreciation for what they had to endure upon hearing more of the back story in this documentary.

Your views on them fighting for the United States notwithstanding, their sacrifices and struggles should be known to Black people and all people. That's definitely a discussion that needs to be had, but, the fact remains, Veterans Day is not just for White Veterans. Black men have lost their lives in many of this country's foreign wars. Let's not let them be written out of history and let's place it in its proper context for future generations who WILL have a land of their own to fight for. 

I have some photos from that tour. If I can find them, I may post some.

Documentary Info: http://www.aptonline.org/catalog.nsf/vLinkTitle/FLY+BOYS+WESTERN+PENNSYLVANIA+S+TUSKEGEE+AIRMEN


'The Trials of Muhammad Ali' showing in Chicago November 8th through 14th!

I've written about how much I enjoyed the new documentary 'The Trials of Muhammad Ali' and if you are in the Chicago area, you'll have the opportunity to check it out for yourself!

Khalilah Camacho-Ali  the former Mrs. Muhammad Ali, who is featured in the documentary – will be in town as well to promote the film and make appearances at select screenings which are indicated below.

Here are the dates, times and locations for showings here between November 8th and 14th. Call if you need more details beyond what I've provided below, and if you check it out, let me know what you think!

Music Box Theatre (North side) | 773-871-6607
3733 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, IL 60613
Showtimes: 5:00, 7:15, 9:30.
*Special appearance by Bill Siegel and Khalilah Camacho-Ali at 8pm screening Nov 8th (tickets).
*Special appearance by Athletes United for Peace at 7:15 pm screening Nov 13th.

Chatham 14 (South side) | 773-332-1450
210 West 87th Street, Chicago, IL
Showing daily: 12:15, 2:30, 4:45, 7:15 & 9:30.
*Special appearance by Bill Siegel and Khalilah Camacho-Ali at 4:45pm screening Nov 9th.

ICE Lawndale 10 (West side) | 773-236-8423
3330 W. Roosevelt Rd, Chicago, IL 60624
Showtimes TBC.
*Special appearance by Bill Siegel and Khalilah Camacho-Ali at 7pm screening Nov 10th.

More details regarding nationwide showings here: http://kartemquin.com/films/the-trials-of-muhammad-ali/events


[TODAY!] Ava Muhammad & Frances Cress Welsing discuss '12 Years a Slave', 'Django' & 'The Butler'

TODAY on Elevated Places with Dr. Ava Muhammad, she and renowned author and researcher Dr. Frances Cress Welsing will share their thoughts on whether movies like #Django #TheButler & #12YearsASlave are good or bad for the Black psyche. 

What's behind them? What will be the short term and long term effects of such movies?
This promises to be a fascinating discussion! I can't wait to hear what they have to share!

| 4PM CT | 1690AM WVON | 
Streaming live at WVON.com. 
Don't miss it! Spread the word!


'The Trials of Muhammad Ali' - An Excellent & Balanced Documentary

I just finished watching an advance press screener of the new documentary 'The Trials of Muhammad Ali,' sent to me from Kartemquin Films (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters). 

I've watched many documentaries and various programs purporting to deal with Muhammad Ali's story and turbulent times outside of the ring. This is by far the fairest treatment I've seen because of the prominent presence and voices of those who actually lived through it. 

Little known facts are provided along with outstanding archival footage and candid interviews with Minister Louis Farrakhan, NOI pioneers Abdul Rahman Muhammad and Abdul Bey Muhammad, as well as veteran journalist and radio host Salim Muwakkil. You will learn and it will make you think. 

There are many viewings taking place in various cities over the next few weeks. Check it out. You'll be glad you did. 

Go to: http://kartemquin.com/events for times and locations.